Monday, July 23, 2007

A Guide for Worship and Doctrine: A

Following is the first draft of the "A" section of the forthcoming "Guide for Worship and Doctrine," a glossary of liturgical, biblical and theological terms. I post it here with hopes that it will be beneficial to some who happen upon it, and that I might receive some constructive feedback on it. Please comment with spelling/grammar corrections, and to suggest words I have not included, or to suggest eliminating some of the words I have included. Also, it would be helpful for me to know if the descriptions are too vague, too thorough, or too difficult to understand. In case you missed my "preface" to the project, it is an expansion of a guide produced by Immanuel's former pastor, Dr. Jim Jarrard. I have used the following sources in the process: New International Dictionary of the Christian Church; the IVP "Pocket Dictionaries" of Theological Terms, Biblical Studies, and Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion; and Without further ado, here are the "A"s.

Advent: A word meaning “coming”. The season of Advent stands at the head of the Christian Year, marking both our celebration of Christ’s first coming and our expectation of His second coming. It is observed over the four Sundays immediately prior to Christmas Day. During this season, the church prepares itself through worship for the coming of God into the world in the incarnation of Christ. John speaks of this as “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14).

The Advent Wreath is added to worship during this season to remind us of the progression of weeks leading up to the birth of Christ. In addition, our special services during Advent include the “Hanging of the Greens,” when we decorate the church for the season, our annual Christmas dinner, and special musical programs by the children’s choir and sanctuary choir.

Agape: One of several Greek words that is commonly translated as “love.” This kind of love speaks of the unconditional love of God for His people and the love that we are called to demonstrate to one another in Christ. It is this kind of love which the Apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. In the early church, prior to observing the Lord’s Supper, the church would gather for a full meal, which they referred to as the “Agape Meal.” This is commemorated in some Christian traditions which still hold “love feasts.”

Agnosticism: Comes from a Greek word meaning “without knowledge.” It is used today to refer to a system of belief which asserts that God, if He exists, cannot be known by man.

Alleluia: See Hallelujah.

Altar Call: The Altar Call, or “Invitation”, is the time of response at the conclusion of worship services. This moment is usually accompanied by the singing of a Hymn of Invitation or Commitment, and provides the worshipper with an opportunity to respond publicly to those decisions privately made before God. As the pastor concludes the sermon, the opportunity is extended for worshippers to come forward to the front area of the church (or “altar”) and share any decision or concern with the pastor or others who are waiting there to receive them. This is the traditional time for making any of the following commitments public:

  1. Profession of Faith in Christ. This is the central commitment of the Christian faith. Baptists believe that persons enter the Kingdom of God and the church first by making this commitment of one’s life to God by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Normally, this decision is accompanied by a decision to be baptized and admitted into the church.

  1. Uniting with the Church. (Becoming a Member of Immanuel Baptist Church). Those wishing to become a member of this church may come at the time of the Altar Call, or Invitation.
  2. Rededication of Life. At points along the Christian pilgrimage, persons may wish to publicly acknowledge a desire to rededicate that life to Christian service and piety. The Altar Call is the appropriate moment to make that desire known.

In addition, the Altar Call provides a moment at the close of the service for persons to find their ways to the altar and simply kneel to pray, or share a burden or a prayer concern.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 339-397 AD): Bishop of Milan during the fourth century who was known for his benevolence, preaching, and strong arguments against heresies. He was a strong influence in the life of Augustine. His legacy survives through our conviction of the separation of church and state, and our practice of congregational participation in worship.

Amen: A Hebrew word meaning “firm” or “established”. It is used in the OT as an acknowledgement that a saying is valid. It was adopted in Christian usage after Jesus used the word Himself. He often used it at the beginning of His teachings to mean “truly”, showing that His words are reliable. Paul speaks of the “Amen” of the assembly (“How can the outsider say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?” 1 Corinthians 14:16).

According to Justin Martyr, the people responded with “Amen” in worship as a way to say “So Be It,” or “Let It Be.” When we say “Amen” in worship, we are saying that we agree with and affirm the message that has been spoken or sung.

Amillenialism: The belief that the thousand years of Christ’s reign over the earth as described in Revelation 20 is not a literal span of time at the end of history, but rather that Christ is presently reigning over the world through His people the church. See also Premillenialism and Postmillenialism for alternate views held by Christians. For a thorough comparison of these three views, we recommend Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, edited by Darrell Bock and Stanley Gundry.

Anabaptists: Literally, it means “rebaptizers,” and was applied as a term of derision to those who believed that baptism was reserved for those who were mature enough to understand the meaning of salvation and repentance, and who had made a personal decision to follow Christ. They were opposed to the widespread practice of baptizing infants. It was applied to a diverse group of Christian movements during the Reformation of the sixteenth century. The Anabaptist practice of “believers’ baptism” or “credobaptism,” as opposed to “infant baptism” or “paedobaptism,” survives today in Baptist churches.

Other beliefs distinctive to Anabaptists were: regenerate church membership (only born-again believers in Christ could be members of the church); separation of church and state; strict church discipline; and the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. While frequently labeled as pacifists, the more accurate word for Anabaptists is “nonresistant.” Anabaptists were regularly and severely persecuted, even unto death, by Catholics and Protestants alike for the firm commitment to these convictions. While many groups holding unbiblical beliefs and questionable practice were called “Anabaptist,” the most biblical expression of Anabaptism was found among the Swiss Brethren. This movement began in Zurich among a group of former disciples of the reformer Ulrich Zwingli. Notable Anabaptists from this movement are Balthasar Hubmaier, Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, and Michael Sattler. Their core beliefs are summarized in The Schleitheim Confession. For further reading on our Anabaptist heritage, we recommend William Estep’s The Anabaptist Story, John Howard Yoder’s edition of the Schleitheim Confession, and Dave and Neta Jackson’s On Fire for Christ, a collection of biographical sketches of Anabaptist martyrs.

Analogy of Faith: A principle of biblical interpretation that uses passages with clear meaning to decipher the meaning of difficult or obscure passages.

Anathema: A Greek word that means “accursed” or “condemned.” The Apostle Paul uses the term in Galatians 1:8, saying, “If we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Again, he uses it in 1 Corinthians 16:22, saying, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.”

Angel: From a Greek word meaning “messenger,” typically meaning one bringing a message from God to man. Angels are created spiritual beings, which Hebrews 1:14 says are “sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” Satan was created as an angel, but rebelled against God. He and the angels which followed him “fell,” becoming foes of God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17 [in these two passages, the fall of earthly kings is likened to the fall of Satan]; Revelation 12:3-4). Most of the images and ideas of angels that abound in culture, art, and literature do not reflect biblical teaching. For further reading, we recommend Billy Graham’s Angels: God’s Secret Agents, and David Jeremiah’s What the Bible Says About Angels.

Anno Domini (AD): “The Year of Our Lord,” the customary designation for dates following the incarnation of Christ. Years prior to the incarnation are customarily designated as “BC”, meaning “Before Christ.” The turning point between “BC” and “AD” is the year 0, even though it is widely recognized that the Gregorian and Julian calendars are likely off by three to five years. Recent scholarship has sought to replace these designations with the more religiously neutral “CE” (Common Era, corresponding to AD) and BCE (Before the Common Era, corresponding to BC). We prefer the traditional designations, marking the coming of Christ into the world as the turning point of human history.

Annunciation: Refers to the story found in Luke 1:26-38 concerning the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary informing her that she was to become the mother of Jesus.

Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109 AD): Archbishop of Canterbury at the turn of the twelfth century. He was a philosopher and theologian who formulated an intricate argument for the existence of God known as the “ontological argument.” Anselm was also influential for his work on the incarnation and atonement. His view of theology is summarized in the maxim, “faith seeking understanding.” This is based on his famous statement, “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand: for this I also believe, that unless I believe I will not understand.”

Anthem: The main musical selection by the choir during a worship service. The word likely came from the word “antiphon”, which means “response”, or “answer”. It was traditionally a Psalm or Scripture passage set to music. It finds its place in the service not just as a selection of musical excellence, but also to make a valuable and relevant contribution to the congregation’s act of worship. To maintain its “antiphonal” purpose, the choir may “respond” to the reading of Scripture, a prayer, a sermon, or any other element of worship.

Antichrist: Broadly, the term refers to any individual, movement, or ideology which is “against Christ.” More specifically, it refers to a coming world leader who will oppose Christ and whose reign will immediately precede the second coming of Christ. Both uses of the word are seen in 1 John 2:18 and 4:3. The general use is defined in 1 John 2:22. The more specific use of the term is based on the descriptions of Daniel’s “little horn” (7:8; 8:9), the “abomination of desolation (11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14), the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1), and the “beast” (Revelation 13).

Apocalypse: Literally, the word means “unveiling.” The Greek word from which it is derived occurs in the first verse of the book of Revelation, and serves as an alternate title for that book.

Apocalyptic Literature: Writings which are rich in symbolism and laden with descriptions of dreams and/or visions pertaining to the end of the world and the victory of the Kingdom of God over evil. Daniel and Revelation, as well as portions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah, and Mark (chapter 13 in particular) are categorized as Apocalyptic.

Apocrypha: A collection of writings considered biblical (canonical) by the Roman Catholic Church, but rejected by Protestants. The writings are dated to the era known as the “Intertestamental Period,” that 400 year gap between the last of the writing prophets of the Old Testament and the incarnation of Christ. Although these books did appear in some early collections of Christian Scripture, they were never accepted into the Hebrew Old Testament. The books are rejected by Protestants because of their questionable historicity, doctrines, and authorship. Martin Luther included them in his German Bible because he found them to be good and profitable, but confessed that they should not be considered as Scripture. A general Protestant consensus exists which believes that the Apocrypha is profitable for reading in order to gain some historical or cultural information, or from grammatical comparison in the study of original languages. However, they should not be granted the status of inspired Scripture or used for the formulation of Christian doctrine or practice. For further study, we would recommend reading the Apocryphal books in a Catholic edition of the Good News Bible, and then David DeSilva’s Introducing the Apocrypha.

Apocryphal New Testament: A general description of books circulating during the first few centuries of Christian history which purported to give additional information from the life of Christ and teachings of the apostles. These books originated between the second (perhaps early first) and sixth centuries, and were rejected by the early church because of their unsubstantiated historical claims, pseudonymous (or outrightly forged) authorship, and their aberrant theology (much of which was Gnostic) which countered “the faith once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). For further reading, see Darrell Bock, The Missing Gospels. The most readily accessible collection of the documents in English is The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James Robinson.

Apologetics: The branch of Christian theology which deals with the defense of the Christian faith. It includes setting forth the claims of the Christian faith in a reasonable fashion with supporting evidence for the claims, as well as answering the attacks of Christianity’s critics with evidences and logical reasoning. For further reading, see Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Apostasy: The abandonment, renunciation, or personal departure from the Christian faith. The Bible teaches that salvation is an eternal and permanent gift of God which cannot be lost (see, for instance, John 10:27-29). Apostasy, then, does not involve the loss of salvation, but rather the abandonment of the faith by one who never was truly saved. If they had been genuinely converted to faith in Christ, they could not have apostasized (1 John 2:19).

Apostle: From the Greek word apostolos, which means “to send out.” In its strictest and most appropriate sense, it refers to those whom Jesus hand-picked “that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Jesus selected twelve, a number corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, and significant in view of the number of thrones they will occupy (Matthew 19:28) and the number of foundation stones that will bear their names (Revelation 21:14). Jesus selected Simon (Peter or Cephas), James and John (sons of Zebedee, who were also called “Boanerges,” or “sons of thunder”), Andrew (Peter’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew (also called Nathanael), Matthew (Levi), Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus, also called James the Less), Thaddaeus (who also goes by the name of Judas, but distinguished from Judas Iscariot), Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. Following Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of the Lord and suicidal death, the early church selected Matthias as a replacement apostle (Acts 1:12-26). In time, God would raise up Paul as an apostle of Christ. Many believe that the early church acted prematurely in selecting Matthias, and that Paul was God’s choice to replace Judas Iscariot. The apostles were commissioned to lay the foundation of the church upon the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20), and oversee the development of the New Testament (John 14:25-26; 16:13). Their authority was demonstrated by signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 12:12). The term is also applied to others in the early church who were commissioned with doctrinal and missionary authority, such as James (the brother of Jesus, Barnabas, Silvanus, Timothy, Andronicus and Junias. However, we must not overlook the significance of the number “twelve” (Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 21:14).

Apostles’ Creed: An early statement of Christian faith, not intended to be a complete summary, but rather a brief confession of basic Christianity. It is most likely rooted in late first or early second century confessions of faith, coming into its current form sometime later. The creed reads as follows:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.


Apostolic Fathers: A group of early Christian writers who had direct contact with the apostles. They include Clement of Rome (who had been in contact with Peter and Paul), Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp (disciples of John).

Aquinas, Thomas (1224-1274 AD): The most prominent theologian and philosopher of the medieval era. Thomas was a prolific writer. His Summa Contra Gentiles was intended to be a manual of Christian Apologetics. Summa Theologica (incomplete at the time of his death) was intended to be a systematic analysis of Christian doctrine. The “Five Ways” of Aquinas were philosophical “proofs” of the existence of God.

Aramaic: A Semitic language related to Hebrew used in the writing of several sections of the Old Testament, including portions of Ezra, Jeremiah, and Daniel. It was most likely the language spoken by Jesus and His disciples in the first century. Several New Testament verses preserve the Aramaic proclamations of Jesus (including Mark 5:41 and 7:34).

Arianism: An system of teaching set forth by Arius (who died c. 335 AD) which denied that Jesus was truly God, and claimed instead that He was the highest created being of God. This teaching was condemned as a heresy at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

Arminianism: A system of Christian doctrine set forth by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609 AD). It originated as a response to the teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin on the subject of predestination. Those reformers saw predestination as God’s unconditional election of certain individuals to salvation, whereas Arminius taught that God’s predestination was conditioned upon His foreknowledge of whether an individual would exercise a free choice to accept or reject salvation. Because salvation rested almost solely upon the free choice of the individual, it could also be abandoned at will, in contrast with the biblical doctrine of eternal security. See also Calvinism.

Articles of Incorporation: A document filed by the church with the state government that establishes the church as a legal entity. One of the most basic purposes of incorporation is to limit legal and fiscal liability for the members of the church. When a church operates without incorporation, every member is personally liable for the debts, judgments, fines, etc. After incorporating as a legal entity, the Corporation becomes liable for debts, judgments, fines, settlements, etc. rather than the individual members personally carrying that burden of responsibility. By incorporating, church members are protected from personal liability in legal or financial dealings. In a corporation, only the assets of the corporation are at stake, rather than the personal holdings and property of its constituent members. When a church is incorporated, individual members remain legally and financially liable only for their own personal acts of negligence, crime, injury, or breach of duty or responsibility. In addition to this very important advantage of incorporation, there are numerous other benefits. Some businesses and organizations with whom we may work on occasion are assured by virtue of incorporation of the nature and viability of the church. In incorporating, a church protects its unique identity by prohibiting others from operating under the same name. Incorporation also ensures perpetual existence. In an unincorporated church, the death or departure of some key leader may mean the termination of the entity. By incorporating, the future of the church is legally secured from such. Copies of Immanuel Baptist Church’s Articles of Incorporation are available upon request.

Ascension: Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, He appeared to His disciples over a period of forty days, teaching them in “the things concerning the Kingdom of God.” After commissioning them to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:18-20), “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). The ascension marks the end of the visible earthly ministry of Jesus, and prepares the way for the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers and minister through the church. The ascended Christ now sits on the throne of heaven, serving as the High Priest of His people and interceding with the Father on their behalf (Hebrews 7:24; 8:2). The disciples were reminded that “this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Ash Wednesday: The first day of the season of Lent, on which worshippers are marked with ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance. Baptists have not traditionally observed Lent or Ash Wednesday.

Athanasius (c. 296-373 AD): Defender of Christian orthodoxy against the challenge of Arianism at the Council of Nicea. His biblical defense of the deity of Jesus was unshakable. A prolific writer, Athanasius contributed significantly to the Christian understanding of the Trinity, Christology, and creation. Historically, a Trinitarian creed bearing his name has been attributed to Athanasius (the Athanasian Creed), but more recently his authorship of it has been questioned. Whether or not Athanasius wrote the creed, it was certainly influenced greatly by his thought on the subject of the Trinity.

Atheism (or Antitheism): The denial of the existence of God.

Atonement: A word of Anglo-Saxon origin which breaks down to “at-one-ment,” indicating the act of God whereby sinful mankind is reconciled to God through the death of Jesus Christ. Though Christians have often debated just how Christ’s death brings about atonement, there is consensus that the biblical information speaks of a “ransom” and a “substitution.” As a ransom, Christ pays the price of redemption with His blood. As a substitute, He dies in our place, for our sins. These two views are like two sides of the same coin, for both images are found in Scripture (for example, Matthew 20:28; 1 Peter 3:18).

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD): One of the most influential theologians in Christian history. His Confessions is widely considered to be the first autobiography ever written. Through his many theological writings, Augustine helped shape Christian thinking on the subjects of the Trinity, sin, predestination, and the church.

Authorial Intent: Scripture’s meaning is rooted in the intention of the person who wrote it. We are not at liberty to twist or distort it to fit our preconceived notions, nor may we approach it subjectively as if to say that it means whatever we want it to. Scripture’s meaning is that which the author intended it to have. This is the goal of biblical interpretation.

Autograph: The original, handwritten copies of the books of Scripture. All of the autographs of Scripture have been lost.

Autonomy: In Baptist life, this word is used to indicate that the church governs itself. Though we may be part of an association or convention through voluntary cooperation, the associations or conventions cannot make policy that is binding on the local church. The denomination has no control over the local church.


Mark Roth said...

Regarding the Anabaptists, they were nonresistant rather than pacifist.

Russ Reaves said...

Mark, thanks so much for the feedback and for the links. The article by Paul Horst was very helpful in explaining the distinction. I was aware of this distinction, but I thought I might simplify it for a lay readership by using "pacifist." I stand corrected however, and see the need to modify the description.

Russ Reaves said...

A new entry has been added to the "A" section for "Adoption". It reads as follows:

Adoption: The act of God which transforms human beings who are separated from God because of sin into the sons and daughters of God. This takes place at the moment of salvation, when one repents of sin and trusts in Christ to save them. See John 1:12; Romans 8:15-16; 1 John 3:1-3.